Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Iconography of Branding.

Young artists of today love Andy Warhol except for his postmortem work of course. But thanks to Andy Warhol making money continues to be the new art. However, with or without him pop culture is a sure money maker. Pop culture is such a deep market that it allows “artists” such as Jeff Koons to make a living alongside stiff  competition.

Unabashed talent

Yet, I want to focus less on the super villains of pop art and more on artists that stretch beyond the confines of their assembly line profit mentality.  Jonathan LeVine Gallery has finally gotten it right this time with the exhibition of Japanese artist  Haroshi in the Future Primitive show. Haroshi breaks the redundant boundaries and limitations within tired pop art by not just commenting on objects, but transforming pop art into new organic representations. Haroshi creates what I call “Transformative Iconography,” essentially recreating representative iconography through the morphing or manipulation of branding with new modalities. This isn’t your grandma’s  soup can anymore.
Big Apple  Haroshi

His series “Apple” is not simply a co-opting of the apple icon and brand. He is not simply replicating an image; he is creating new representation through the symbolic nature of his work, craft and his own personal connection to his media.  His manner of production is influenced by culture tradition in much the same way that Japanese wooden Buddhas are constructed.  The layering of wood (used skateboard decks) in mosaic pattern gives a unique and ornate sculpture method to his work. Not to mention the history surrounding his used decks. To go a step future, the trendiness of being green also might score brownie points in a modern climate change context.

Nike SB Dunk Haroshi

Outwardly many of his artworks traditionally reveal how cultures place value on commodities and branded objects. Interestingly, these are constructed forms made accessible from other commodified objects completely unrelated to the constructed form, but inherent of his process and ideals of the iconography that he intends to relate to the viewer. What is fresh is what lies inside; these works have what he calls a “soul.” The true value lies within the object, a value constructed with material that the artist himself finds contextually significance. He places items unseen to the naked eye inside his works, which for the artist seem to transcend the observable and subjective nature of the work. Like the layers of skate board decks, his work is multi facetted.

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